Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all things: Graft the love of your Name in our hearts, increase in us true piety and devotion, nourish us with all that is good, and in your great mercy keep us faithful; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 Kings 17:8 - 16
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”
“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, I don’t have any bread — only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it — and die.
Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’ ”
So she went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
Mark 8:1 - 10a
During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples.
“Let us observe from this passage that with Christ nothing is impossible . . . We must never allow ourselves to doubt Christ’s power to supply the spiritual needs of all his people.” Bishop J.C. Ryle
NOURISH US WITH ALL THAT IS GOOD
Two narratives, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New, confirm the constancy of the lavish supply of divine necessities to the Lord’s people from the basic provision of nutrition from day to day, and by extension, to the needs of the soul - baker’s bread for “this day”, and the bread of heaven for spiritual sustenance and satisfaction. The Lord tends to body and the life of faith. Our mouths are fed by the grain of the field and our minds by the grain of the Word. The Lord is our strength both physically and in our personal piety and faithfulness. We digest his gift of food and eagerly devour his saving truth, absorbing all the benefits he bestows upon us. The lessons of material blessing are transferable to the sphere of the hungry heart that can only be sufficed by the pure word of God. We may take heart that our Savior cares for our earthly wants and our eternal wellbeing.
The shared plight of Elijah, the widow and her son reassures us of possible divine deliverance even on the brink of despair when resources are meager and on the verge of exhaustion. The Lord commands an impoverished widow whose pantry is nigh on empty to supply his meals when she expects only one meal more and then death. The visible prospects are dire. But Elijah’s God is true to his word spoken to the prophet. Flour jar and oil jug will be supernaturally replenished day after day until the rains return and vegetation revives. The cul-de-sac of drought and hopelessness will be amazingly obliterated.
The crowd gathered around Jesus is not as desperate as were Elijah and his hosts, but their situation was similarly impossible of solution. Seven loaves of bread and a few small fish could by no means satiate the hunger of about 4,000 men, and the earnest compassion of the Lord Jesus seemed as though it could not be summoned to practical success. The place where all were assembled was notoriously remote and the journey home on foot would have been too strenuous for the majority of the Lord’s three day audience without refreshment. The disciples were nonplused but in spite of the impossibility before everyone Jesus bade the people sit on the ground as if dinner might be somehow served.
The mighty hands of the Son of God took hold of the slender supply of food, he gave thanks, and broke the loaves for total distribution among the people. The third day in Scripture usually portends the display of a revelatory sign from God, and the feeding of the 4,000 pointed to Jesus as promised Messiah. Maybe persons with eyes of faith walked home in wonder. The miraculous supply for the meal of the crowd was more than sufficient, for the leftovers filled seven baskets.
The power and provision of God is never straitened. Such is the meaning of the miracles. And the collect is based on the premise that in the gift of his grace the Lord is exceedingly generous beyond measure when necessary. He can increase our love for him, and increase the many reasons for our trust, obedience, piety and devotion. He is the nourisher of the Christian heart in all virtue and righteousness. His Name can become the supreme love of our hearts and he can keep them for himself. All things good are pledged to us. Nothing is impossible, even when conditions are not propitious.